Eat and Live!

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13th Sunday after Pentecost
John 6:51-58

INTRO:

You are what you eat.  I’m sure that you’ve all heard that before.  It’s very true! Have you ever seen that movie “Super-Size me?”  The guy eats McDonalds for a month straight and his health just goes right down the tube.  This guy willingly ate tons of garbage food, he gained weight, his blood pressure went through the roof, he had troubles sleeping from all the sugar and caffeine.  It’s sad to watch what that guy went through for the sake of “science.”

While, “you are what you eat” clearly applies to our physical health it also applies to our spiritual health as well.  As psalm 42 says, “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you oh, God.”  Our creator has endowed us with an inborn desire to crave him. Our souls need to be fed and nourished otherwise they starve or become malnourished.  If we neglect our spiritual health and let it starve, just like anything else it will wither and die.  Just as we need to eat right physically, so we need to eat right spiritually.  Today, in the Gospel according to John, our Savior tells what to eat.  He says we need the living bread from heaven.  He encourages us to “Eat and Live!”  He tells us that it matters what we eat, and when to eat.  

 

Context:

Jesus gives this bread of life discourse when he’s back in a familiar place, the town of Capernaum.  The same place where he did his first miracle of changing water into wine.  Just prior to this bread of life sermon, Jesus gave the people of that area an object lesson, he fed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.  There the people ate and had their fill!  But when Jesus saw that after that the people were going to make him their new king by force, he left.  Yet, they followed him around the lake, chased him down.  When they caught up to Jesus, he basically said, “You followed me not because you wish to know who I am, but rather you filled your stomach!”

 

PART I: It Matters what you eat

EXPOSITION

This whole incident drives Jesus to get the Jews to question what they had been eating spiritually.  Just 2 verses before the text for today, Jesus says, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.”  See, the Jewish religious leaders had been teaching their people for years that when the Messiah came, he would be greater than Moses.  Meaning, he would do signs and wonders that were greater than the ones Moses was permitted by God to perform.  So, when Jesus fed the 5000 they thought, “Well that’s pretty good, but a drop in the bucket compared to the nation of Israel 2 million strong that were fed DAILY when Moses led our ancestors in the desert.”

Yet, as Jesus points out – they died!  Jesus is driving them to look beyond the physical.  He wanted them to stop thinking only ever about their earthly needs, that they had eaten and had their fill when he fed the 5000, that they wanted a leader, a king, who would revive Israel’s armies and drive out the Romans who occupied their land.  This is the sort of thing that their religious leaders and politicians were feeding them – peace, prosperity, a new golden age of Jerusalem – right now.   Christ Jesus offered them something greater.  He wanted them to focus on their spiritual welfare.  In so many words he says, “I am greater than Moses!”  When he says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

But they didn’t want to hear it.  This sort of thing was literally disgusting to them.  They were still thinking of the physical when they said, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  But then Jesus goes even a step further!  When he says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Drink his BLOOD?  That thought would have been abhorrent and revolting to them!  Just as it would be revolting and abhorrent if someone told you that! “He wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood – this is what we have to do to eat and live – PREPOSTEROUS!”

APPLICATION

On physical level, preposterous indeed! But that’s the point.  Jesus leaves no room to remain thinking about the physical.  He’s directing us to look not at the physical but to the spiritual.  That our greatest need lies not with the flesh and blood that we see with our eyes.  But in the Spiritual, the needs and the hungers of the soul that which we cannot see – yet surely exist.

I think Christians are tempted in the same way, to seek after answers for their “best life now.”  It’s almost inevitable for Christians in America at least.  Our lives are pretty cushy.  We have homes, cars, and the nearest meal is a microwave away.  Most of the technology out there today is based around creature comforts.  Not that I’m even necessarily opposed to those things, many of them are extremely helpful to us – even in the case of Gospel ministry.  However, to maintain that standard of living the world around us is driven by a desire to take in knowledge.  All that we might improve our lives right now, that we might be comfortable and well fed right now.  Our culture worships the physical.  It worships things that seem imperishable.  I mean that’s pretty obvious when we have a culture that worships youth.  And that is an easy thing to get caught up in, it’s sweet and it tastes good, but it’s spiritual junk food.  Because reality tastes quite bitter.  Who isn’t afraid of dying, who isn’t afraid of that box in the ground six feet down, who doesn’t want to live forever?

But this is what Jesus answers here isn’t it!  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 

Jesus is the bread of life, the genuine article! He said, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”  He implores us to make him a part of us, so then to eat, is to believe. Believe that he is who he says he is, God made manifest, the Savior, the one sent to take away our sins and remove the power of death.  This is what he wanted those Jews of his day to see, and this is what he wants us to see. He is far better than manna from heaven, that satisfies for a day but then leaves a person hungry again.  This bread from heaven was given for the life of the world.

PART II: When we eat

EXPOSITION

When Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  This is not altogether different than what he had preached and taught on various other occasions.  It’s similar to what he told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Whoever believes in him (Jesus) is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  It’s reminiscent of when Jesus tells his disciples that he is the vine and they are the branches – if they remain in him he remains in them.

For the Jews who heard Jesus on that day, Jesus illustrates the idea of “remaining” in him in a unique way.  As St. John recalled this bread of life discourse, and wrote it down, the word that he chose for “eat” is rather graphic.  It’s not like “eat a light snack.”  Literally, the word that John chooses here is gnaw.  Chew on continuously, like a dog gnawing on a bone!  He wanted them to ponder him, to follow him, to listen to his words daily, to grow in their knowledge of who he was.

APPLICATION:

It’s really for that reason that this bread of life discourse isn’t expressly talking about holy communion.  Sadly, we know that there are some who partake of the Lord’s Supper and take it not to their benefit, but to their condemnation as Paul says in Corinthians.  Jesus is talking about a continuous eating – like the psalm talked about – a tree planted by a stream of water whose leaves don’t wither or fade.

Jesus wants us to come to him continually and often.  Part of the reason that Jesus uses such extreme language here – eating flesh, drinking blood, gnawing on him – is because this is a matter of spiritual life and death.

One of you, just the other day was telling me that you were talking to someone about their lack of regular church attendance.  The phrase that was used was, “If you don’t water the grass, it’s going to die.”  How true that is!  The believer plants his or her self in the Word.  We feed on the Word of Jesus.  We have an everlasting source of spiritual nourishment, this living bread from heaven.  This is what coming to church is all about.  It’s about feeding our souls.

I’m reminded of a lady that I used to visit while she was in hospice care.  I remember her telling me that she had many regrets about how she’d spent her time in life, as a mom, a wife, even as a daughter.  But one thing she said she never regretted, even on her death bed as she looked back on her life, was bringing her children, her family to church with her.  Even when she felt it would be too hard to come that Sunday for whatever reason.  Even when she thought that she probably didn’t need to go that week – she realized that when she got there that she needed it more than ever.  Her soul was starved during the week.  Spiritually her strength was sapped and she needed to come to the bread of life.

At the end of the day, that is what church is about.  It’s not all the meetings, activities and programs.  It’s regularly sitting at the feet of our Savior Jesus and feeding on his Word.  Meditating and believing on that message that his flesh, and his blood were given and poured out for us, for the forgiveness of all of our sins.  And his flesh and blood rose again!  Proving that he was LIFE, the main ingredient in him was eternal life.

CONCLUSION

This is why as Christians we eat this bread often because even as this mortal shell fails, even when all the food and drink in the world would avail us nothing and we have hours to live; not even the bitter taste of death can take away the effects of eating this bread.  The Gospel is the bread of life, given to us that we might have eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Remember you are what you eat – so eat and live!  Amen.

The Blood of the Covenant

Covenant

Maundy Thursday 2016
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, friends in Christ, what is a “covenant”? That term is used all over Scripture, but it’s not something that we use a whole lot in our day to day lives, right? Perhaps we could think of a covenant as being something like a two sided contract that determines a relationship between two parties. We do have contracts in our society. If you contract someone to build a house for you, what you are saying is that you will pay a certain amount of money and the contractor will purchase the materials and hire the workers to build your home. So, in the end you get a home and they get money. It’s a two sided covenant. What about a one-sided covenant? Perhaps the closest thing in our world to a one-sided covenant is an infant child. The mom goes through a lot of pain to give the child birth, feed the child, nourish the child, protect the child, take care of the child and often at a lot of work and expense. What does the child offer the parent? The child isn’t going to offer emotional support, financial support, physical support. In a way it’s a one sided covenant because even in our society it’s still viewed as a deplorable crime for a parent to neglect or abandon an infant child.

Now, in Scripture there’s all kinds of “covenants.” There are covenants between two parties of people, there are two sided covenants between people and God – where both have a responsibility, and there’s unilateral or one-sided covenant where God promises something despite the action or non-action of people. It’s such a new covenant that God is promising in this text. But first we have to understand the old covenant.

One of the most important covenants was the covenant God made at Mt. Sinai with the Israelites- this covenant described how God was going to interact with his old covenant people. After God had wondrously led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt they assembled at Mt. Sinai and God made a covenant with them. It was a conditional covenant – He would be their God, their Protector, He would guarantee a great future for them- the condition was that the Israelites would remain faithful and totally consecrated to Him and live by all His commands. In a way, God treated them like children- he spelled everything out for them. And to ratify this Sinai covenant Moses took blood from young bulls and half of it he sprinkled on the altar offering it to God, the other half he sprinkled onto the bodies of the people (Exodus 24). That ratified this old covenant.

But this conditional Old Covenant was always meant to be temporary. They had to repeat all these offerings and sacrifices over and over again. It was also meant to keep the OT people separate and distinct from all other nations until the promised Savior would come. It also, in a way, showed that it was impossible to earn God’s love by obedience. There was just almost this impossible list of rules, regulations, laws, and commands. Imagine living as an Old Testament believer- almost every aspect of your life was regulated from the food you ate to contact with dead bodies to how to clean mold or mildew!

Now, we have to keep in mind that the way of salvation, however, is exactly the same in both the old covenant and the new. In the OT a person was saved exactly like a person is saved today: through faith in Christ. It’s just that the OT person looked ahead to the Savior, while the NT person looks back to the Savior who has come. But God understood the human weaknesses and tendencies to sin, so in the old covenant, in the old way that God interacted with people, He provided a ton of pictures for people of what forgiveness looks like. They had all these sacrifices and offerings which pointed ahead to a future sacrifice and offering and assured repentant sinners that they were forgiven by God.

So, the Old Covenant was: obey me, keep my commands and laws, and God will protect you and you’ll live long in the land. But the people broke God’s covenant with them. Instead of sacrificing to God, they sacrificed to idols and false gods, they abandoned God, didn’t keep His commands. That’s what was happening at the time of Jeremiah –and because they broke the Old conditional covenant- the people were on the verge of experiencing the most severe covenant curse – their land was about to be destroyed and they were about to be hauled into captivity in Babylon.

So, in the midst of all of this, God promises a “new covenant.” A different covenant, a new way He is going to interact with His people. It is not conditional, it is unconditional and unilateral. It is an unconditional promise of God to the unfaithful Israelites.

We live in the new covenant. But do we sometimes think that church, religion, the Bible is all about following rules and laws? There are two pitfalls we can fall into. On the one side we could view God’s moral laws as burdensome- “Ugh, all this stuff about sexual immorality, coveting, honoring God by hearing His Word – it’s burdensome! Why can’t I just do what I want?” Or, on the other hand we could view keeping God’s moral laws as a way to deserve God’s blessings, like “As long as I do this, as long as I go to church, as long as I’m good, God will have to reward me and give me the things in life I really want.” But both are wrong.

You see, the new covenant is totally different. He’s going to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. What does that mean? This is a different covenant. It’s not about outward obedience but heart transformation. There are no rules, or laws, or commands that have to be kept. It’s about the heart, trust, believing. The center of this new covenant is “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  When did that happen? It happened when Christ offered the one sacrifice that really matters. He offered the once-for-all sacrifice that pleases God and removes sin and guilt. His blood shed on the cross removes sin forever. The new covenant announces salvation that is complete, finished, and above all, free through Christ. The new covenant is forgiveness of sins.

In baptism God seals this new covenant to us because in it He gives us the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins and the faith to believe it. In baptism we hear this promise of God, “I forgive your wickedness and remember your sins no more.” But that’s not it! In further grace God shares the meal of the new covenant with us in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies, seals this covenant of forgiveness with us. In the old covenant blood of bulls was sprinkled as an offering on the altar of God, in the new covenant Jesus sheds his blood on the altar of the cross, in the old covenant blood was sprinkled on the bodies of the people, in the new covenant God gives us his own body and blood personally in the Lord’s Supper. He ratifies this new covenant, He removes any doubts about His love for us, He comes to each of us personally to touch it, taste it, hear it, see it that we belong to him, we are one with him, all that is his is ours. When we receive the Lord’s Supper it’s a special assurance that we are the recipients of this new covenant- In the Lord’s Supper you receive the blessings of the New Covenant- the forgiveness of your sins. His lifeblood is our life.

In the new covenant God deals with us differently than in the old. Now God doesn’t have to beat you and tell you- now here are all the rules and laws you have to follow. Rather, God tells you what He’s done to save you and rescue you, so eternal life is yours. You know what that does? It sinks deep inside of you, in the Supper He gives you His own body and blood in a supernatural way with the bread the wine, and you literally cannot help but live a new life, a life of love! The new “law” is to live a life of love. And you want to! It’s not from a heart that’s enslaved but a heart that’s been set free, a heart that’s been forgiven.

So as you receive the Lord’s Supper this evening, receive forgiveness, receive the blood of the covenant, Jesus’ body and blood together with bread and wine that unites you with Jesus and transforms your heart to a live a life of love and service to God and others.

God gives you…Himself!

8th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Corinthians 10 and 11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Jack Wurm was walking along the shore of a beach on the California Coast. He was thinking about his life and all of his troubles and was almost penniless. When something caught his eye. It was a bottle with a letter rolled up inside of it. Intrigued, he smashed the bottle and read the note, it read: “I Daisy Alexander do hereby will my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this note and to my attorney Barry Cohen. Share and share alike.” At first he was about to throw the note away as nonsense, but he folded it up and stuck in his coat. Sometime later he asked a friend who was a lawyer about the note. He was afraid people would think him to be a fool if he actually believed it and looked into it. But his friend said, “You’d be a bigger fool if you don’t check it out.” He did investigate it, it took him to the highest courts of the US, the evidence showed clearly that this Daisy Alexander was real, that she lived in London, and was an heiress of the Singer sewing fortune. She had made a separate will put it in a bottle and dropped it in the Thames river. It took 11.5 years but ended up in the place where Jack Wurm found it. He inherited 6 million dollars and $80,000 per year of company stock. Jack could have thrown the message away, rejected it as foolish, and remained a relatively poor man. But since he sought the evidence and investigated the matter, that which first appeared foolish turned out to be a remarkable reality and a great reward.

Now that story is probably nothing more than an urban legend and not really true, but it does illustrate a valid point: That which might first appear foolish can with some investigation turn out to be a remarkable reality and a great reward. And how fitting that is when we think about the Lord’s Supper and what the Lord’s Supper really is. Usually twice a month here at St. Mark’s we set aside a portion of our Sunday morning worship service where everyone who has had opportunity to learn what we believe and teach at St. Mark’s and has confessed their unity in faith with us by officially joining our congregation comes forward and receives a little wafer of bread and a sip of wine. On the outward appearance it may look so foolish- why use up so much time? Why eat and drink when it doesn’t come close to satisfying physical hunger or thirst? It seems so silly and foolish. And yet, if we don’t investigate what this exactly is, not only will we be bigger fools, but we’ll also miss out on a remarkable reality and a rich reward.

We can tell very clearly from the gospel account of Jesus’ institution what it is that we receive in the Lord’s Supper, but the blessings are so awesome that God wants us to be sure. Here in 1 Corinthians we are given yet again another description of what we’re receiving in the Supper. The congregation in Corinth, Greece to whom Paul first wrote the letter of Corinthians had a bunch of problems. One of the problems that they had concerned an abuse of the Lord’s Supper. They didn’t have to do this, but they celebrated the Lord’s Supper at the same time as they celebrated a larger fellowship meal. They didn’t have large churches with fellowship halls to host large gatherings. Rather, they usually gathered at a member’s house. Typically, the wealthier members of the church were the ones to host the gathering. Well, what seemed to happen was the wealthier member who hosted the fellowship meal was a little troubled thinking about how much his bill was going to be if he hosted this meal week after week after week. So, this attitude started to permeate the congregation, “I’ll provide for myself and the other wealthier people, but the poor people can provide for themselves.” So the rich, in order to save money for themselves, ate in the dining room, while the poor were forced to eat outside in the porticos. So the poor people came for Christian love and were forced to bring their own meager food and were shamed.

That selfish attitude is completely contradictory to what is going on in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is not something to be treated lightly because of the awesome reality of what it is and the incredible blessing that it gives us. What Jesus says when He instituted the Lord’s Supper and what God says through Paul in 1 Corinthians can be understood only if there is something far greater going on in the Lord’s Supper than a mere representation or sign or symbol of Jesus’ body and blood.

First of all, there is the need for clarity in what we’re told about the Lord’s Supper. Jesus instituted it on the night He was betrayed, Maundy Thursday, within hours He would be dying on the cross. And Jesus wants to give His disciples and all His people something before He leaves them. This wasn’t the time for jokes, this wasn’t the time to speak in figurative language, this wasn’t the time to make confusing statements. Jesus says very clearly, “This IS my body…this IS my blood.” In fact, it’s so serious a thing, that we’re told that taking it in an unworthy manner – that is, refusing to repent of some sin or not recognizing that it is Jesus’ body and blood – will result in eating and drinking harm on oneself.

Next, consider the person who instituted the Lord’s Supper. If this was any ordinary human being speaking the words, “This is my body,” we would have reason to doubt it, consider that person a deceiver, and reject the simple, plain meaning of the words. But this isn’t just any ordinary person! This is Jesus! This is the Son of God! This is the one who is the essence of truth itself, this is the one who has infinite wisdom and infinite power to back up what he says and make His body and blood truly present! And Jesus has the power to be present in many different ways. It’s not His general presence in the fact that Jesus is present everywhere, nor is it Jesus’ special presence as He promises to be with us always, He has a very special presence- a sacramental presence where Jesus’ own body and blood are truly present in, with, and under bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Yes, we can’t explain it, yes it goes beyond science, yes it is miraculous and supernatural, but Jesus can do that.

And finally, notice what God says in 1 Corinthians 10:16, the sacramental bread is a “joint partaking” of Christ’s body and the sacramental cup is a “joint partaking” of His blood. Notice it isn’t just a “joint partaking” of Christ, like we enjoy a special spiritual connection with Jesus, but rather, it is a joint partaking of body and blood. Jesus’ body and blood are present together with the bread and the wine in an incredible way.

Well, why is it so important for us to recognize this? It’s because we are so unworthy. The reality is, each of us has an overwhelming need of forgiveness. The path that we live on isn’t a straight down the middle road, rather, we hover at the brink of a ditch on either side. At many times we’re on the brink of becoming self-righteous Pharisees, thinking that we’re doing fine in life, forgiveness, God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, we know they’re there, but we don’t really need them. We’re doing fine on our own. God can take the back seat for a while. How eager were we to hear God’s Word this morning? How eager are we to crack open our Bibles during the week? How eager are we to receive the Lord’s Supper? If we don’t have an overwhelming sense that we NEED forgiveness and NEED the Supper, it’s because we have a spiritual disease deadening us to our true spiritual condition – a dangerous place to be! Then we spend the other times of our life on the other side of the road hovering over the ditch of despair. “Could God really forgive me for what I’ve done?” “If God really forgives me, why does the horror of my past sins still haunt me?” “Will I really go to heaven when I die?”

Then there’s the devil. Martin Luther said, “The devil is a liar, to lead the heart astray from God’s Word and to blind it so that you cannot feel your distress or come to Christ. He is a murderer, who cannot bear to see you live on single hour. If you could see how many knives, darts, and arrows are every moment aimed at you, you would be glad to come to the Sacrament as often as possible.”

So, the reality is: we desperately NEED the Lord’s Supper. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we receive not just bread and wine, but we also receive Jesus’ body and blood. How it happens? We don’t know. When exactly it happens.?We don’t know. That it happens- that we know for sure, because Jesus says so. So as you partake in the Supper, yes you’re really eating bread, yes, you’re really drinking wine, but in a miraculous way, you’re also receiving the true body and blood of Jesus Himself. That’s amazing!

Just think, what if this morning instead of handing out bread and wine, we’d distribute 1 million dollar checks to every person who comes up. The checks are yours, they’re real. How would people react? Do you think any one would miss next time? But what’s worth more? A million dollars or the body and blood of God? It’s obvious! What price could we put on Jesus’ body and blood? It’s priceless! And God gives his true body and blood to whom? To you! “Take and eat this is my body given for YOU! This is my blood shed for YOU!” God Himself is willing to give you Himself! And all for what? Your forgiveness. So you can touch, taste, see, hear your forgiveness personally and individually. With the Supper He sweeps away any doubts about His love for us, for if He is willing to give you Himself, His true body and blood, then there’s nothing he won’t do for you!

And that’s why it’s so crucial to understand and hold on to this truth – the truth that we really do receive Jesus’ body and blood in the sacrament. It’s not just a symbol, it’s not just a sign, it’s not just a representation. Rather, there’s a remarkable reality and a rich reward in the Supper. In it God gives you confidence. You don’t face life thinking, “I hope I’ll go to heave someday.” Rather, God wants you to humble, yet confidently say, “I know I’m going to heaven.” I have Jesus’ body and blood given to me in the Sacrament all for my forgiveness.

Jack Wurm might have got a large sum of money for looking into a note he found in a bottle. But you get a far greater reward every time you receive the Lord’s Supper for in it, God gives you…Himself! Amen.

Small Catechism: The Lord’s Supper

Holy Week, Maundy Thursday

The Institution – Matthew 26:26-28

If you go to a birthday party, it’s almost a given that at some point there will be a special song. Probably when the cake is being brought out with candles lit on it. Everyone knows the song and every joins in singing it. Now, imagine going to a birthday party and when the cake is being brought out everyone begins singing a totally different song. How would you react? I’m guessing you would be surprised, shocked, and you would probably remember that strange birthday party.

Well, Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover. The Passover was something celebrated by Jews every year since the exodus from Egypt some 1500 years previous. So, for 1500 years the Jews had been following a set way of celebrating the Passover feast. But on this day Jesus did things really different. The disciples would likely have had rapt attention to what Jesus was doing.

Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” And it’s important to note that the Greek language typically doesn’t use the word “is.” Often it’s simply understood; somewhat like if I were to say what’s it like outside? You could say, “Dark.” Or, you could say, “It is dark.” Adding the word “is” adds emphasis to what is said. Then Jesus took a cup of wine and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant.”

So, in the Lord’s Supper Jesus really truly gives us His own body and blood under the bread and the wine. We really truly eat bread and drink wine and, yet, in a miraculous way, in a marvelous way we really, truly receive Jesus’ true body and blood in way that surpasses our human mind and reasoning.

And think about what this means. Each one of us knows how to play tapes over and over inside our heads. Especially after we say or do something embarrassing, silly, dumb, foolish. “How could I be so foolish!” “How dumb can I be.” “I’m pathetic.” “I must be worthless.” We know how to play those tapes over and over in our heads. I’m guessing the disciples knew too.

But then here’s the Lord’s Supper. Jesus comes to you and He says to you, “My son, my daughter, take and eat, this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood of the covenant.” And Jesus gives you… Himself. How much is Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood worth? Can you put a price tag on it? No. It’s priceless. And…Jesus gives it to you in His Supper saying to you, “You’re worth it to me. You’re priceless to me. I give you me.” And can anyone’s opinion of you matter more than His? Amen.

The Blessings

Apparently several power stations in N.D. generate the electricity that Beltrami Electric Coop uses. There’s a lot of power generated at that power station. However, that power would do me no good unless a system of power lines connected my house to the power plant.

What Jesus did on the cross is somewhat like that power plant. Jesus won enough blessing on the cross for the eternal salvation of all people. However, it would do me no good if I wasn’t connected to it. And how are we connected to Jesus? We are connected to Jesus through the Gospel which comes to us in the Word and in the Sacraments. One of those sacraments is the Lord’s Supper.

Notice again what Jesus said, “This is my body given for you…this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus’ body given up for us on the cross and His blood poured out for us on the cross, Jesus gives us to eat and drink in the Sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins.

The devil loves to come and tempt us with doubts about God’s love for us, doubts about our forgiveness, doubts about our salvation. And so what does Jesus do? In the Lord’s Supper Jesus comes to you personally and visibly, audibly, tangibly, and tastefully He gives you Himself for what? For the forgiveness of sins, connecting you personally to all the blessings He won with His death on the cross.

And not just once, but He comes to you again and again and again with forgiveness.  Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper you receive the very forgiveness of sins Jesus won for you on the cross. And not only that, with forgiveness comes strength, strength God Himself gives you to live for Him, to make choices in life not to sin, to make choices that honor and please your Savior. And finally, with forgiveness comes assurance. Every time you receive the Lord’s Supper God gives you the assurance that heaven is your home, for His own body and His own blood shed for you won it for you. What blessings!

The Power

Quiet. Be still. Get up take your mat and go home. Fill the jars with water and take some to the master of the banquet. Lazarus, come out. Jesus said some crazy things, didn’t He? It’s certainly not logical to tell a storm to be quiet and still. It’s not a medically approved treatment to tell a paralyzed person to walk. It’s not scientific to fill jars with water and expect them to turn into wine. It’s normally not nice to tell someone’s dead relative to come out of his tomb.  But Jesus did. And if it was anyone else who was saying those things we would have reason to believe they were crazy.

But not Jesus. Why? Because when said something, things happened. When Jesus spoke storms stilled, the lame walked, water washed into wine, and the dead came back to life. Jesus’ words have power.

And so it is when Jesus said, “This is my body; this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” It might not be logical, it might not be scientific, but it’s true because Jesus says so.  Jesus’ words give it the power.

Just like Jesus wanted storms to still and lame to walk, so now by His words Jesus has attached His power to His Supper so that every time you receive it your soul wearied with sin is refreshed with forgiveness, your spirit crushed by bad choices is renewed to live in a God-pleasing way, and your heart so often bruised by all the hurts of life is given healing by God’s love and commitment to you. That’s the power of Jesus’ words, that’s the power of Jesus’ Supper.

The Reception

You’ve been admitted to the hospital, you have a 104 degree fever, you feel terrible, your heart feels like it’s racing right out your chest, you’re in a cold sweat, a doctor – whom you’ve never met- walks in the room tosses you a bottle of pills and walks out of the room saying, “Take those.” And he’s gone. Are you going to take those pills? I’m guessing not! A different doctor walks in, looks you over, takes your pulse, your temperature, examines your charts, asks you a bunch of questions, then he says, “Yep, you’re sick, you’ve got whatever.” And you’re going ask, “Is there a cure?”

That’s kind of like what doctor God does.  Before we take the Lord’s Supper God wants us to ask ourselves, “Am I sinner? Do I need forgiveness? How have I measured up to God’s 10 commandments? How have I fulfilled my duties as a spouse, parent, student, employer, employee?” And if I’m honest with myself I have to conclude: I’m terribly sick with sin. I need forgiveness.

And what happens? God awakens in us a hunger for His Supper. He awakens in us a desire to receive the very forgiveness we need in the Supper. Then Jesus comes to us with His own body and blood together with the bread and the wine to give us the cure we need: the forgiveness of our sins. May we with ready hearts receive His Supper. Amen.

The Gift of the Lord’s Supper

Maundy Thursday

A Miraculous Gift: Matthew 26:26-28

Did you hear what Jesus just said?  Jesus said, “Take and eat; this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant.”  In other words, in this Lord’s Supper we eat bread and drink wine and in a miraculous way- a way that goes beyond our understanding- God give us Himself, His true body and blood.  That’s amazing!

Now, does it make any sense to us logically?  Not really.  The fact that I would eat a little wafer and drink a little wine and at the very same time I receive the body and blood of God??  That’s crazy!  Right?

Well, let’s think about some other things that God tells us in Scripture.  It was crazy to think that the Israelites could walk around the city of Jericho a bunch of times and the city walls would come crashing down.  It was crazy to think that Gideon could defeat the thousand upon thousands of Midianites with only 300 men.  It was crazy to think that Naaman could wash in the Jordan River and be cleansed of leprosy.  It was crazy to think that the disciple Peter could walk on water to meet Jesus who was also walking on water.

And…every one of those things worked.  Why?  Because the promise of God was connected to each event.  The promise of God brings power!  The walls of Jericho fell because God promised they would.  The Midianites were routed because God promised they would be.  Naaman’s leprosy was healed because God promised it.  Peter could walk on water because Jesus promised it.

Andy why is all of that important to us?  Because there’s all kinds of things that all we have is God’s promise.  We can’t scientifically prove that believers go to heaven; all we have is God’s promise.  We can’t scientifically prove that in baptism a child is adopted into God’s family; we have God’s promise.  We can’t scientifically prove that in the Lord’s Supper we receive Jesus’ true body and blood together with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  In a way to our human eyes and human reason it would seem foolish to believe that.

But, we have God’s promise!  And God’s promises have this amazing record of always coming true!  Again and again and again.

So we come to God’s gracious gift of the Lord’s Supper, we don’t have to figure it out logically, we don’t have to scientifically prove it, it doesn’t have to jive with our human reason.

Rather, we simply rejoice in it.  Why?  Because we have a promise from God!  And God keeps all His promises.  We do receive Jesus’ true body and blood and it really does give us the forgiveness of our sins!  It works!  What a miraculous gift!

A Gift to Unite:  1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Do you enjoy being alone?  Sure there are times when we just like to be by ourselves to think about something or to sort things out.  But I’m guessing none of us would enjoy being alone indefinitely, loneliness, no family to visit, no friends to do things with, no coworkers to talk to.  None of us would enjoy indefinite loneliness.  Well, God knows our needs and one way that he fills our need is in this wonderful gift of the Lord’s Supper.

There’s actually 2 powerful unitings going on in the Lord’s Supper.  First, God tells us, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?  And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”  In an awesome and amazing way God unites Himself to us in the Lord’s Supper giving us His own body and blood.  But is that something that we truly appreciate?  Do we have a sense of awe when we approach the Lord’s Supper?  Do we treat the Lord’s Supper as something profound, awesome, and amazing?  Or do we simply come forward without any sense of the wonder and amazement of what God is doing here?  We need to be reminded again what the Lord’s Supper is: God uniting Himself to us by giving to us His own body and blood together with the bread and the wine for the forgiveness that we so desperately need!

There’s also another uniting going on in the Lord’s Supper, with each other.  God tells us through Paul, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”  Here Paul uses an illustration of how the Lord’s Supper was distributed.  They would have one loaf of bread, resembling a pita bread, and they would pass it around and each person would break off a piece.  There’s also this horizontal unity in the Lord’s Supper.

If there wasn’t any such thing as false teachers and false teachings in the world we could enjoy the Lord’s Supper in a wonderfully amazing way with so many people.  But the fact is as Jesus promised there are false teaching and false teachers.  Let’s focus on just a couple that deal with the Lord’s Supper.  Some people say that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper actually “change into” Jesus’ body and blood so there’s no longer bread and wine, so that when you drop a wafer you’ve dropped Jesus’ body or if you spill some wine you’ve spilled Jesus’ blood.  That turns the Lord’s Supper into a scary thing!  Others say that the bread and wine merely represent Jesus’ body and blood and that Jesus’ body and blood are really not present.  That false teaching empties the Supper of it’s deep meaning.  Would we want to say that we’re in agreement with someone who believes that?

And that’s just scratching the surface of all the false teachings in our world!  Would you want to say that you are in agreement with any of those false teachings?  No way!  So God wants His people to practice membership communion.  God wants only those who’ve had an opportunity to learn and take an official stand on all the truths of Scripture to commune.  Why do we do that?  Because there are all kinds of false teachings in the world and we can’t read hearts so we rely on a person’s confession of faith.

And, can you imagine?  You’re about to come before the altar with dozens of other believers who … confess exactly what you confess!  You’re about to come before the altar with other believers who have taken a stand on each and every truth of the Bible … just like you!  You’re about to eat bread and drink wine, but know that you’re receiving Jesus’ real body and blood together with it, in a miraculous way!  And every other person up here has said that they believe the same thing!  This is wonderful and deep unity!  We celebrate it in the Supper, and God builds it ever stronger in the Supper!

A Glorious Gift:  Matthew 26:29

He had nothing in this world.  No estate.  No investments.  No inheritance.  He’s about to leave His disciples and what will He leave them when He goes?  What could He possibly give them to replace His physical presence?  And what about us, His followers in the year 2014, what has He left us?

In a wonderful way He gives us His true body and blood together with bread and wine so that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and actually receive the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross.  God assures us of our forgiveness and sweeps away our doubts about His love for us.

And one other thing, Jesus said, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”  What else has Jesus given us in the Lord’s Supper?  A wonderful foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us in glory!  Here in the Supper God gives you a foretaste of what you will enjoy in eternity in His presence!  What a glorious gift!